Ontario’s Environment Commissioner Challenges The Province’s Plans To Accomodate 4.4 To 6 Million New People (Mostly Immigrants) Over The Next 25 Years

November 8, 2005: Ontario’s Environment Commissioner Challenges The Province’s Plans To Accomodate 4.4 To 6 Million New People (Mostly Immigrants) Over The Next 25 Years


Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, Gordon Miller, has challenged the provincial government’s plans to accomodate an additional 4.4 to 6 million people for Ontario over the next 25 years. He is to be congratulated for taking this action, says Immigration Watch Canada.

In the introduction to Mr. Miller’s annual report, which he released last week, he issues strong cautions:

“One of the troubling aspects of the improved planning system is that it is still based on the assumption of continuous, rapid population growth. Government forecasts project that over the next 25 years, Ontario’s population will increase from just over 12 million to 16.4 million or perhaps as high as 18 million. Three quarters of these people are expected to settle in the urban area around Toronto and in the Greenbelt lands. Even with higher development densities, this is a vast number of people settling in an already stressed landscape. ”

“Why must the population grow at this rate in parts of southern Ontario?” Citing those who argue that such population growth is necessary, Mr. Miller asks, “But is this true? There are prosperous European economies that thrive without a burgeoning population base.”

Mr. Miller contrasts northern and southern Ontario. “The reality is that a planning regime based on the continuous expansion of population and the growth in consumption of resources in the south-central part of the province is ultimately not sustainable.”

Observers are aware that immigration comprises the highest share of Ontario’s population growth and that Mr. Miller is indirectly questioning high immigration levels.

Mr. Miller concludes that the people of Ontario will have to decide collectively what they want their society and their landscape to look like 25 years from now.

He points out that Ontarians, under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, have the right to participate in ministry decisions that affect the environment. Specifically, citizens can “comment on environmentally significant ministry proposals; ask a ministry to review a law or policy; ask a ministry to investigate alleged harm to the environment; appeal certain ministry decisions; and take court action to prevent environmental harm.”

In the past, the major problem with the Environmental Bill of Rights
(the EBR) has been that a ministry must give its approval before citizens can challenge its legislation. A number of ministries have delayed their approval and rendered the EBR ineffective.

To counteract this, Mr. Miller’s first recommendation is that “new government laws and initiatives that are environmentally significant be prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights within one year of implementation”. Such a move should dramatically reduce delays.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is the branch of government that would deal with population growth. Mr. Miller recommends that this ministry “undertake public consultation on the government’s population growth modelling and projections…”.
In the past, such discussions have been done mostly behind closed doors.

In total, he makes 13 recommendations. It is significant that he places the population growth recommendation high on his list. (Recommendation #3)

In an interview done with the press when his report was released, Mr. Miller stated: “The environmental impacts of this magnitude of growth…will compromise the quality of our lifestyle to a stage where it will be unrecognizeable. We already have trouble with our waste…. What about another 4 million tonnes? What about another 4 million cars?”

He has chastised many Ontario government ministries for treating the environmental impact of their departments as a frill or public relations exercise.

Mr. Miller has already been attacked for challenging population growth and for suggesting public consultations to discuss the issue.

Immigration Watch Canada notes that the criticisms once again point to the need for a civil, thoughtful discussion of the immigration issue. Since the implementation of a mass immigration policy in 1990, both Ontario and the rest of Canada have been pressured and stampeded into accomodating millions of people whose entry has never been justified.

As long as this issue is not dealt with in open public discussions of the kind Mr. Miller advocates, it will continue to fester. It makes no sense to say that population growth, since the advent of mass immigration in 1990, has been environmentally neutral. It also makes no sense to say that the only people who should participate in this discussion are Ontario’s or Canada’s immigration industry and recent immigrants.

Immigration Watch Canada notes that this is also one of the first times that a high government official has questioned high immigration. Most political parties undoubtedly have had some internal debate about immigration. But most have lacked the courage or been unwilling to make the logical connection between high immigration and environmental degradation.

Canada’s Immigration Minister, who has recently proposed a 40% increase in immigration, and Canada’s Environment Minister, who has been cheerleading this announcement, should take special note of what Mr. Miller has said.

All provincial immigration ministers, particularly those in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec (where most immigrants land) and their colleagues in all provincial legislatures and in municipal governments should also take special note. The issues Mr. Miller raises are Pan-Canadian, not just Ontario’s.